Saturday 10 December 2011

Bible Book:

"And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars, see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise agaist nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs." (vv. 6-8)

Matthew 24:1-14 Saturday 10 December 2011


However painful the onset of labour, it becomes more so beforethe child is finally born. Clearly Jesus expects the trauma of theend of the world to follow a similar pattern. In answer to thequestion, "What will be the sign of your coming and of the end ofthe age?" (v. 3), his main concern is that people will assume itmust be just around the corner as soon as difficult circumstancesarise in world affairs.

In fact wars and terrorist threats (the most prominent applicationtoday of "rumours of wars"), along with wholly or partly naturaldisasters such as famines and earthquakes, are only a sign that theend will come (ie God's purposes are being worked out), not anindication of the timescale.

Jesus' teaching on this theme is prompted by a comment from thedisciples (verse 1) either about the splendour of the templecomplex, which any tourist of the time would have found greatlyimpressive (the historian Josephus describes this in detail in hisAntiquities), or shocked by Jesus' implication at the end of theprevious chapter (Matthew 23:37-39) than Jerusalem is ripe fordestruction. Jesus confirms that the city will indeed be destroyed.This happened in AD70 in response to the Jewish rebellion againstRome that began in AD66.

But the disciples seem to assume that so great an event as thedesecration of the temple, which the Jews thought of asindestructible, must surely be part of the end of the world andwhat the Church came to call Christ's 'parousia' or coming again,and it is that event which Jesus addresses in today's verses.

The practical applications of an end which is a long time comingare that Christ's followers should not be misled by peoplepredicting an imminent end or claiming themselves to be the Messiah(verses 4-5), that they should endure in faith when persecutioncomes (verses 9-13), and recognise that the delay allows the goodnews to be proclaimed worldwide so that all may respond (verse14).

To Ponder

To what extent do you think the destruction ofthe temple was ultimately a good thing or a bad thing for Jewishbelievers? Why do you think that?

How might Christians begin to explain to theirfriends that earthquakes, tsunamis and such disasters may be apositive sign of God's purpose being worked out?

Why does God seem to intend to allow humansuffering to get worse before Christ eventually comes and sets allthings right?

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